WAR clouds may be gathering over Iraq, but in Singapore most people's main concern is keeping afloat during these tough economic times.
With the recession threatening their livelihoods, a war 7,000km away in the Middle East is just another blip in these hard times, said most of the 30 people interviewed by The Straits Times.
Accounts manager Vincent Ching, 32, said: “I don't think the war is going to affect Singapore very much. We're already in such bad shape.”
And a production manager Wilson Lee, 40, said: “I'm more worried about losing my job.”
But there is some concern that a protracted war will hurt the economy even more, push up prices and threaten jobs.
Results of a Straits Times Interactive poll tell a similar story. Nearly half of the 238 respondents said they were not doing much of anything to prepare for a possible war.
The most they would do, some said, was curb spending. That was why Andrew Wee, a 29-year-old sales executive, decided against “one of those attractive car loans.”
“Oil prices are probably going to skyrocket. If I'm left without a job after the war, I'd be in big trouble,” he said.
Never mind those assurances that Singapore has enough in stock.
Fear of impending war usually push up gold prices, the “safe” wartime commodity.
In Malaysia, crowds have been flocking to jewellery shops though prices are at a seven-year high of RM50 (S$23) a gram.
There has been no rush in Singapore, where gold retails at a steady $23.50 a gram.
In financial markets, most people are holding back. “It's wait and see,” said Lim Jit Soon, an analyst and research head with Salomon Smith Barney Singapore.
And there has been no panic buying of essentials.
Richard Chee, director of Tong Seng Produce, one of Singapore's major rice importers, said: “So far, the people we send out to observe the buying patterns of housewives say they are not stockpiling.”
But this could change.
In 1991, people rushed to stockpile such items only after the Gulf War broke out. At some shops, demand for rice tripled.
Tong Seng is bringing in 20% more stock, just in case.
Singapore's No 1 grocer, NTUC FairPrice, said supplies will not run out.
Its spokesman said: “We have quite a few major suppliers of oil, and we always have a rice stockpile.”
Many people are still travelling, travel agents report, while Ananda Travel said Turkey continues to sell well, with 10 groups travelling there over the Chinese New Year.
Singapore Airlines, which flies to Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Cairo, says its flight paths will avoid any war zone.
A spokesman said: “If hostilities begin in Iraq, we will ensure that our flight paths to the Middle East and Europe avoid areas of conflict.” – The Straits Times/Asia News Network
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